When Dan Aykroyd of The Blues Brothers and Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of Hard Rock Cafe, were looking for a location to open a music venue in the early 1990s, Harvard Square was an obvious first choice.
“[Aykroyd] wanted to open it up in a place that celebrated all kinds of music,” said House of Blues Vice President of Marketing David Fortin, who worked at the Harvard Square location from 1994 to 2001. “He was very passionate about the community of Harvard Square, a place where all walks of life are coming together.”
After all, the Square had a good track record. A few decades earlier, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Joni Mitchell all got their start performing at Club Passim off of Church Street.
But after House of Blues left its 180-person space in the Square, opening spin-offs nationwide and eventually a 2,425-person capacity venue in Boston, it seemed the beat had moved on, leaving Harvard Square behind.
Today, the Square at last looks poised to re-invigorate its legacy of up-and-coming live music. Two new music venues opening within the year—the Sinclair, a 525-person-capacity concert hall and restaurant, and a yet-to-be-named American bistro with nightly live music—hope to bring spunk and soul back to historic Harvard Square.
Set to open later this month, the Sinclair is backed by The Bowery Presents, a New York-based promotion company, and Boston chef Michael Schlow. The Bowery Presents has been operating out of Boston since 2010 and is already involved in the Cambridge music scene, promoting shows at The Middle East and TT the Bear’s Place, both in Central Square.
The Sinclair is still under construction at 52 Church St., a space built in 1982 that once housed Atrium Cafe and later Brew Moon. The first show in the new restaurant-concert hall is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 30.
“To find a space that ended up being the perfect layout for a venue and restaurant right in the heart of the Square was amazing,” wrote Josh Bhatti, head of The Bowery Presents: Boston.
The Sinclair already has 30 shows on its line-up until December, some of which have already sold out. Acts include Andrew Jackson Jihad, K’Naan, Converge, and David Wax Museum.
“We’ve worked really hard to curate an opening line-up that is diverse and caters to a lot of different musical interests,” Bhatti wrote in an email.
The other music venue will be a second location for Boston restaurant owner Jack Bardy, who currently operates The Beehive in Boston’s South End. Both of Bardy’s venues are full-service restaurants with live music every night, focused on jazz and blues.
“It’s a natural extension to Harvard Square. It has an incredible history with music and a captive audience,” Bardy said.
Bardy said he plans for the restaurant to open at 11a Brattle Street in the spring and is still thinking of a name. The intimate semi-underground restaurant will have a capacity of more than 100.
Bruce Ferrara, music director of The Beehive and of the new Harvard Square location, said he hopes to see the spot helping a vibrant music culture return to the area.